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Chamber and committees

Question reference: S5W-32468

  • Asked by: Angela Constance, MSP for Almond Valley, Scottish National Party
  • Date lodged: 12 October 2020
  • Current status: Initiated by the Scottish Government. Answered by Jeane Freeman on 12 October 2020


To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to open up further options to enhance visiting in care homes.


Visiting is a fundamental part of the health and wellbeing of those who live in care homes and the Scottish Government recognises the impact that visiting restrictions has had on care home residents and their loved ones. It is committed to safely resuming visiting and everyday life activities for care home residents.

The Care Homes Clinical and Professional Advisory Group (a multidisciplinary group which has provided clinical and professional advice throughout the pandemic on care homes), and key stakeholders such as Scottish Care, has been actively working to develop guidance for the sector to re-introduce visiting in care homes through a staged approach. This being in as safe a way as possible, while COVID-19 remains in Scotland.

The plan commenced from 3 July, with care homes initially supporting outdoor visiting with one visitor once a week, increasing to 2-3 outdoor visitors from 10 August. Additionally, indoor visiting involving one visitor, once a week, has been implemented by care homes that have had visiting their plans approved by local Directors of Public Health.

Today I have published updated guidance for the sector to support residents and relatives to spend more time together as safely as possible. The guidance has been developed with input from family members, carers, and clinicians to offer greater flexibility in visiting arrangements and indoor visiting in particular, as winter approaches. It recommends extending indoor visits between residents and their designated visitor to up to four hours. Outdoor visits can be extended to up to an hour with up to six visitors from no more than two households, including children and young people. The new guidance also supports increased personal interaction, including hugs or hand holding, as long as strict PPE and infection prevention control measures are met. The guidance also recommends that hairdressers be supported to return to care homes, with safety measures in place. Guidance published on 3rd September also recommended that, from 7th September, routine, preventative and rehabilitative visits by health and social care professionals resume.

Care homes should only resume visiting when they have been free of COVID-19 for 28 days, are participating actively in the care home worker testing programme, and have had their visiting risk assessments approved by the local Director of Public Health (or delegated official). Any decisions about enacting the guidance to ease restrictions will be made by care homes in the coming weeks, based on local planning and risk assessment, and in collaboration with residents and families wherever possible, to ensure safe visiting for everyone. Until 31st March 2021, care homes can continue to access local PPE Hubs for support with additional PPE, including provision for visitors, should normal supply routes be unsuccessful.

The Scottish Government will continue to actively consider how we can best support safe visiting in care homes, and protect those who are at most risk from this virus.

Alongside changes to visiting guidance, the care home sector has been updated on the phased transition of the weekly care home worker testing programme from UK Government (UKG) laboratories to the NHS, which will continue over the coming weeks in line with work to bring three NHS Regional Testing Hubs online.

Care home providers will be kept up to date through the Transition Programmes communication group, including individual care home transition arrangements to reduce uncertainty for providers. Providers will continue to access weekly testing by their current route in the meantime.

The updated guidance can be found here: .